4 Survival Tips for an All-Day Interview
I’ve always considered myself a strong interviewer, but I’ll admit it: I was rocked by my first day-long interview (a.k.a., five and a half hours of back-to-back meetings with multiple people in the company). Would it sound insincere to repeat my answers over and over to each person? Could I ask how two members from one department worked with the three I just interviewed with from another? Was there really no coffee involved?
That day was definitely a learning experience. (Translation: I didn’t get the job, but I did gain some important insight for anyone else going through an all-day interview.) Learn from my trial by fire, and use these tips to power through your interview.
1. Ask for a List of Who You’ll be Meeting (and Ideally a Schedule)
When you have one hour-long interview, it’s common practice to know whether you’re meeting with a hiring manager or the division VP. But with multiple interviews, the details can get a little sketchy (e.g., “We’d love to have you meet the team, speak with a few other departments, and take an afternoon tour”).
But don’t be afraid to follow up and try to get the details of who you’ll be meeting with ahead of time. The names are obviously helpful (for some Google and LinkedIn recon), but a schedule is even better, as you’ll be able to visualize the day in advance and know how to pace yourself.
Try something like, “I’m really looking forward to meeting the team on Thursday. Would it be possible to get a schedule of the day and a list of who I’ll be meeting with beforehand?” Then, work with what you’re given—even if you get no names, learning that “the PR department” is one person, not seven, or seeing that the interview with the Marketing team is twice as long as the meeting with the developers can help narrow your prep.
Note: It’s good to wait until a few days before the interview to ask for specifics, as it may take the company that long to pin down everyone’s schedules.
2. Pay Extra Attention to the Start and Finish of Each Mini-Interview
While the day might feel like one long, massive interview to you, remember that each 30- or 60-minute session is a stand-alone for your interviewer. Meaning, you need to treat it that way, making sure each meeting has a strong beginning and end. (This is something I know I had to remind myself of as the day went on.)
For example, you can’t just pick up a new interview where you left off with the last person—you’ll want to take a few minutes for warm-up. Make sure you shake hands, greet your interviewer, and offer a copy of your resume.
Along similar lines, you shouldn’t wrap things up by simply saying “thank you,” then glancing at your schedule and starting to think about what’s next. Make sure to end each interview reiterating your interest in the position, and close with anything from “I look forward to hearing from you,” to “Good luck with that event next weekend,” as appropriate. You want each interviewer to feel like he or she has gotten your best, from beginning to end.
3. Give Consistent Answers (With Varied Emphasis)
Your interviewers will compare notes, which can make day-long interviews feel like a trap: If you tell the exact same story the exact same way 10 times, the team may question the breadth and depth of your experience (“She told all of us the same story about her first workplace—did she learn nothing at her second?”). But if you overcompensate and give totally different answers to each person, no one will feel certain she spoke to the “real” you.
So what should you do? The best strategy is to give consistent answers so there is no question who you are and what you bring to the table, but to add in different details to show there’s more to you than the same five scripted answers.
For instance, you could tell the same story about dealing with a team who didn’t get along twice, but with one interviewer focus on your management style, and with another describe your problem solving skills. Or, use the same story about your public speaking experience—once as an example of how you overcame your shyness and another time to discuss how you connect with a room full of people. You'll get all the right points across while showing off the many facets of your experience.
4. Step Up Your Emergency Kit
My greatest weakness is caffeine—typically, I drink at least two cups of coffee during the workday. But on interview day, while they offered me a lovely salad, a bottle of water, and some peace and quiet in the interview room for lunch, there was no caffeine. At all. My last interview of the day was with the highest-ranking interviewer, the one who could truly sway the decision, and what I remember most vividly is how much my head was pounding. It was hard to focus.
A day like this will test your stamina, so add a secret weapon to your emergency kit. Does your blood sugar (and focus) slow after lunch? Bring a fun-sized pack of candy or an energy bar to down between meetings. Are you caffeine-obsessed like me? Pack a Starbucks VIA, because even if there’s no coffee machine, there’s likely a water cooler with a hot tab, and you can have a cup with lunch. Whatever pick-me-ups you rely on day in and out are even more important on a day like this, so make sure you have what you need.
The day-long interview is a great opportunity for a company to get a picture of who you are, but also for you to see the many moving parts of an organization. So while these days can be exhausting, try to see them in a positive light. Just be prepared, and you'll do great.
About The Author
Sara McCord’s column “Impress Me” explains how to make a better professional impression step-by-step. Her career advice has been published on Forbes, Mashable, Newsweek, TIME, Inc., and Business Insider. A Staff Writer/Editor for The Daily Muse, Sara has experience managing programs, building strategic partnerships, advising executive directors, and supporting a national network of volunteers. Catch up with Sara on her blog Grab A Latte or on Twitter @grabalatte.